Cutting to the chase, I have a list of things that made my first Nationals meeting all the better (I'm not going to tell you how to pack your suitcase). It's geared for both virgins and veterans, so don't click that mouse!
- First off, throw your shoulders back and doubts out the door. Chant I am a writer and I have the right...to be at the meeting, that is. If they didn't expect virgins, they wouldn't have special 'First Timer' badges made and workshops on learning the craft of writing. Go with confidence (this coming from a shy person).
- Smile and say hello. I had a huge time gap between checking in on my first day and waiting for the Literacy Autographing to start. I lingered in the lobby watching groups of attendees chatting and laughing like old friends (which they may have been). Walking up and introducing oneself to a group is easier said than done, unless your a super extrovert, which I'm not. Instead, I mustered up the courage to say hello to others wearing 'First Timer' badges. I'll admit, most said hello, but didn't linger to talk for more than thirty seconds. However, one did stay. We buddied up to go to the Autographing and stayed in touch, not only for the rest of the meeting, but for the entire year since. You never know where one 'hello' will take you. I gained the wonderful and supportive friendship of a fellow writer.
- For all you veterans, reach out! I plan to this year. Last year, I mentioned on a blog comment that I'd be going for the first time, and a published writer reached out. She invited me to email her, she set up a time to meet her for dinner at the meeting, and she introduced me to another first timer from her RWA chapter. Just knowing that I'd 'met' someone, albeit not in person, before getting to the meeting made all the difference. When you see a first timer, introduce yourself. Say something in passing like, "You'll love this meeting." or "So and so is a great speaker." or "Hey, any questions?" Trust me, they'll appreciate it.
- Attend the First Timers orientation. It's worth it. You'll quickly lose any sense of being the only virgin there. It's also an easy place to buddy up with other first timers.
- I bought an extra large black purse. It looked almost like my standard one only it was large enough (tote-like) to carry my notebook, pen, handouts, goodies from the goody room and any books I picked up along the way. RWA did give us big bags which I loaded at the Autographing, but after that I wanted to consolidate. One big purse did it for me.
- DO take a notebook to the workshops. Yes, the lectures are recorded and can be bought (recommended), but I like taking notes, and it's easier to reference specific things that stood out to you.
- Layer or take a sweater. Enough said.
- Keep some nuts, a bar or an apple in your purse for an emergency energy fix. You don't want your tummy rumbling during workshops.
- Unless you're planning to leave a workshop early, sit up front. It's easier to hear, see the overheads, and some lecturers reward front row dare devils. Don't say I didn't tell you.
- If you've completed a manuscript, prepare an elevator pitch and practice it. Be able to answer "So what's your book about?" without fumbling for words. I got asked the question by a published writer. Lack of enough practice mixed with nerves had me sounding like Eliza Doolittle with a mouth full of marbles. Thank God my victim was a sympathetic author and not an agent or editor. Don't be scared, be prepared.
- Resist the urge to hide in your room. Go to the luncheons even if you're not eating. The speakers are so worth it. Check out the Literacy Autographing, the Goody Room, and other events so that you'll know what they're all about the following year. Get the full RWA experience.
- Veterans, volunteer. Virgins can too, although I'll admit that I didn't. I was too overwhelmed with all the workshops and events and I was afraid to overextend myself. This year, I'll be a Literacy attendant and a moderator. Volunteering is a great way to network, reach out, and give back.
- Be professional and don't gossip. My mom used to tell me 'The walls can hear'. Yes, well, so can the decorative planters, blind corners, and bathroom stalls. If it ain't nice, don't say it, unless you want to ruin your career. If you're with someone who's badmouthing an agent, editor, lecturer, fellow writer or anyone for that matter, excuse yourself. If you're in the middle of lunch and can't, then politely speak up and state your 'positive' opinion so that tuned in ears know that you're not guilty by association.
- Raise your hand and ask questions. Stay on the workshop's subject, of course, but you've got all these experts at your fingertips. Don't be so shy as to pass up a golden opportunity.
- Relax and enjoy! RWA Nationals is romance writer heaven!
Calling all veterans! Any more advice on attending RWA Nationals?